Review: 'Mozart in the Jungle'

Over-the-top streaming service Amazon Prime continues its development of original scripted content with Mozart in the Jungle. The dramedy series stars Gael García Bernal as Rodrigo, a young, arrogant and talented new conductor of a worldrenowned symphony who looks to add his own unique touch to the orchestra’s traditional ways, much to the chagrin of previous conductor Thomas (Malcolm McDowell).

As part of his efforts to tweak the symphony — whose board of directors, led by Gloria (Bernadette Peters), has its own thoughts on how to aggressively market the young conductor — Rodrigo discovers a young, struggling oboe player, Hailey (Lola Kirke), who dreams of making it big on the symphony scene. An unorthodox audition leads to a potential spot in the orchestra, but could complicate Hailey’s otherwise simple personal life.

Helping Hailey to navigate through it all is cellist Cynthia (Saffron Burrows), who moonlights in an off -Broadway play, but her connections in the symphony’s hierarchy make her an important player.

Based on the Blair Tindall memoir Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music, the 10-episode series fully exploits the book’s title elements as the often seedy, behind-the-scenes activities of the show’s characters all but destroy the perceived conservative image most people have of classical music performers.

Though it doesn’t invoke side-splitting laughs, the series nonetheless has its comedic moments as it tries to endear viewers to its ensemble of flawed-but-likable characters wrapped within the world of classical music, which has rarely been explored in a television series.

Amazon Studios original shows don’t receive the same accolades as those from its over-the-top competitors Netfix and Hulu. Mozart in the Jungle is a clever and witty series that will further put Amazon’s original content on the map.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.